In the synagogue, Jesus stood up and read from the book of Isaiah saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4: 14-30)
A few things to note here:
- Jesus read from the written words of God.
- He accepted these as the correct words of God.
- He demonstrated that these words were the pure, accurate, specific words passed down from the pen of Isaiah.
- He demonstrated His confidence in the way that the words of God were presented and maintained.
- He believed in the perfect preservation of the Old Testament.
Jesus Approved the Preserved Old Testament
In the New Testament (Matthew 4), it tells us that Jesus went into the wilderness, spent 40 days and forty nights there, and then was tempted of Satan. In opposing Satan, He quoted the following words from the Old Testament:
- But he answered and said, It is written, Man shalt not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Quoted from Deut. 8:3)
- “Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (Quoted from Deut. 6:16)
- “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Quoted from Deut. 6:13,14)
In each case, the Lord relies upon the written authority of God’s word. An authority He unquestioningly quotes. And, an authority based upon specific words. Not just the ideas, nor thoughts, nor principles, nor merely the essence of truth.
Satan would never have stood for that. He would have known if Jesus was quoting from the incorrect words. Satan himself was the master of those — the counterfeit words.
Here, at the beginning of the New Testament, Jesus lays out for us, in the simplest of terms, how trustworthy the written word is. How its purity extends to the specific words themselves.
Every Word Preserved Perfectly
The Old Testament and its preservation was a task committed unto the Hebrews. To them, specifically, were given the oracles of God. To protect and to copy them perfectly.
“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:1)
Jesus said that “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18). This statement applied to all of the Old Testament. It applied not only to the general ideas of the law but also to every word. And not just to every word, but to every character; and not just to every character, but to the intricate, shaping of the letters themselves. Which allowed readers of those letters to distinguish the meaning of one word from another.
These were visual, physical, tangible written words.
This is a clear promise from God that He would preserve His word in written form. In physical, written form here on earth. Not simply in heaven; but here on earth as well.
You might ask, “Why is this so important? After all, isn’t it only important that we have the general ideas or principles of God’s truth? Is it really necessary to focus on the perfect, word-for-word accuracy and survival of the Bible? Isn’t it just the gospel that is necessary?”
Isn’t this all a bit obsessive?
His Word Kept Available to Every Generation
Look at this passage again, “…. man shalt not live by bread alone, but by every word …” (Matthew 4 / Luke 4). Every word of God includes the entire Old Testament up to this point. In Jesus day, of course, that is what they had in the synagogues. Written in Hebrew upon the scrolls.
Those scrolls had been prepared meticulously, religiously and ceremonially by Hebrews whose primary job was to copy and protect the absolute accuracy and purity of the written words of God.
The Lord Jesus was perfectly aware of this copying and guarding process when He stood in the synagogue at the beginning of His ministry. When He read from the scroll, He was, at that moment, fulfilling a prophecy. The Lord God in human form was reading what He had inspired Isaiah some 770 years earlier to write about Himself!
Is it possible that He didn’t care if these were the specific words He had given to Isaiah?
Do the Christian scholars and academics of today believe that God isn’t jealous about His words? That He has allowed His word to slide into error? To fade away into error and corruption?
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” (I Peter 1:23-25)
To fall or fade away would imply that His word would go into obscurity, or into disuse, become corrupted or become hidden away from general use by believers. This is exactly what is implied by the belief that the word of God was lost somewhere in time. And must now be recovered by elite scholars who will someday tell us when we have finally found and confirmed “every word of God”.
In the meantime, what they are actually saying is, “Just use what you have. Trust your souls upon it. It’s good enough for that. It’s close enough.” (Or your money back).
Don’t we see how truly foolish this all is?
We Live By Every Word
We wouldn’t tolerate this kind of treatment with the Declaration of Independence or Shakespeare! If anyone tried to deviate from a single word in those originals, man, they’d be in deep crap! Because people are really jealous about protecting those things.
The Lord’s point is that every word is critical. Every word is necessary in order to live for Him.
Now, admittedly, if we are just trying to live good religious lives, do good to our fellow man and live according to the “golden rule”, it might not seem so necessary. The general idea may serve us well enough if all we are concerned about is to blend into the mainstream Christian world. Which is exactly the way we are headed right now.
And, after all, paying attention to every word does get in the way of getting along with all the different religious groups Evangelicals want to link up with. Just dealing with general ideas and the essence of truth makes it easier to conform to the world. Because there is always a way to get around troublesome doctrines and practices if we are not hampered with specific commands and instructions which specific words spell out.
But, to know Christ Himself, “the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his suffering” and “to be made conformable unto his death” is something entirely different. We need every word of God for that.
To Be Continued…..